Late last Tuesday the Senate gave final approval to the Medicare SRG “doc fix” and in doing so also extended by two years the home visiting program (Maternal and Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting—MIECHV) and the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).  The Senate followed the House in an overwhelming vote of approval by 92 to 8.  All eight votes against were Republican members of the Senate, (Senators: Ted Cruz, TX, Mike Lee, UT, David Perdue, LA, Marco Rubio, FL, Ben Sasse, NE, Tim Scott, SC, Jeff Session AL, Richard Shelby AL).  The legislation was adopted by a vote of 392 to 37 in the House last month. The legislation (HR 2), will permanently replace what has become an almost annual ritual of supplanting the existing provider payments through Medicare with a temporary restoration.  In recent years it has included a list of health care related “extenders.”

For many child advocates a more important element of the bill is a two year extension of the home visiting program, MIECHV and the CHIP program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  The latter extension had drawn some concern by some advocates of CHIP who were seeking a four year extension.

In addition to these two key programs the bill permanently extends a transitional Medicaid Assistance (TMA) program that assist TANF recipients when they leave cash assistance, another program that had received a variety of annual extensions.  The bill extends funding for teen pregnancy prevention funding (PREP) and abstinence education funding and would extend funding for community health centers.

Passage of the MIECHV extension for an additional two years (in addition to last year’s one-year extension) represents an enormous victory for the coalition that reunited a few years ago to extend the program.  There had been a possibility that any extension would have been tied up in the partisan fight over the ACA since it was originally enacted through that law.  Instead home visiting re-emerged as the bipartisan program it was in previous congresses when several bills had been sponsored jointly by Democrats and Republicans.